Leave it to the internet to give us wild ideas on what to slather on our skin as the latest pore minimizer or pimple destroyer. Unfortunately not everything we see from beauty bloggers and Instagram influencers is sage advice.
You’ve likely seen some of these ingredients in store-bought products — but when used alone or without proper sanitation and diluting methods, they have the potential to damage skin, especially over time.
Think twice about DIY methods from your fridge and pantry. Just because something is natural or raw doesn’t mean it’s good for your skin.
We’ve debunked these ingredients that range from gritty to goopy to gross so that you don’t have to give them a test drive.
Oh how convenient it would be to make your morning omelet, slick a little raw egg on your face, and then go about your day with tightened pores and smooth skin. That’s the claim made by proponents of the egg white face mask.
Lowest-risk scenario: Any tightening benefits will wash down the drain when you rinse off the residue.
Most serious potential: A crack in the concept is that raw egg can be contaminated with Salmonella. By placing uncooked egg so close to your mouth, you run the risk of contracting a gastrointestinal tract infection.
A localized infection on the skin is also possible, and the danger is upped when applying to open wounds — like for instance if you’ve got a scratch from Kitty or a few healing blemishes.
Plus, the contaminant can hang around on surfaces for several hours, making your bathroom a health hazard.
However, contracting Salmonella from raw eggs is rare, especially if you’re using pasteurized eggs from the store rather than ones sourced straight from your backyard cluckers.
Lowest-risk scenario: You’ll feel a sting and maybe reap the benefits of a little fruit juice exfoliation.
Most serious potential: The use of citrus fruits on the skin could leave you with bigger worries, like a second-degree burn.
The psoralens in lemons and limes can cause a phototoxic reaction on your skin when it’s exposed to UV light. That means your attempt to fade a red spot could result in a big blister.
The rash or burn, called phytophotodermatitis, often appears one to three days after you’ve gotten some sun — and it could last for months. Talk about the juice not being worth the squeeze!
The “cinna-mask” gained notoriety after a beauty blogger, who goes by EnjoyPhoenix, extolled cinnamon’s purifying power. But this red spice may not play nice on your face.
Lowest-risk scenario: You’ll feel a tingling sensation and experience some redness.
Most serious potential: Several people who tried the cinnamon facial later posted about burns.
Although cinnamon does have some antimicrobial benefits and is used in wound healing, it’s also one of the more common spice allergies. And even if you don’t have a known allergy to cinnamon, you may still be hypersensitive to the spice on your skin or sustain a burn from cinnamon oil.
If you’re tempted to use cinnamon or any spice in a DIY mask, always do a patch test on a tiny spot in front of your earlobe.
Take the same caution with essential oils
Many essential oils provide therapeutic benefits, but like cinnamon, can burn or cause unwanted side effects. Most ingredients, including the ones listed, should be diluted in at least a 1:1 ratio before topical application.
Breast milk facials have become the rage at some spas in recent years to treat acne. Breast milk contains lactic and lauric acids, both of which have skin healing and antimicrobial benefits that some studies show have helped pimple-prone skin.
This information has prompted some folks to turn to their postpartum pals to pump a steady supply.
Lowest-risk scenario: You’ll notice a minimal reduction in irritation and sit there wondering why you have your besties’ breast milk on your face.
Most serious potential: Breast milk is a bodily fluid that can transfer disease, and improper collection or storage could invite a bacterial infection.
If you do head to the spa for a breast milk mask, ask about the facility’s supply source and its safety practices.
What happens in the bedroom is your business — but if you’re promoting the bottling of bodily fluids to baste on your face, it’s not a private issue anymore.
The semen facial blew onto the beauty scene in 2014 when lifestyle blogger Tracy Kiss posted a video touting the moisturizing, calming, and additional “benefits” that ejaculate had on her rosacea.
Others jumped on the bandwagon, stating semen stopped their acne. These claims have no scientific evidence, and dermatologists have widely debunked the concept.
Lowest-risk scenario: You’ll experience minimally softer skin and a whole lot of questions from your roomie about how you got your new skincare product.
“Looking at the semen ingredients,” says Yoram Harth, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of MDacne, “there is nothing that can help with acne for the long-term. The proteolytic enzyme may, in theory, cause some exfoliation of the skin, but this effect would be minimal and insignificant.”
Most serious potential: The blogger who started the viral trend said she sourced the semen from a friend, but this is a dangerous practice. Several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be passed through mucous membranes, and many go undiagnosed.
“There are many better, safer, and more effective treatments for acne that one can choose from,” Harth adds.
Some folks going for a golden glow have gleaned their urine as their go-to astringent or toner.
The theory behind the “pee facial” is that the urea and uric acid in one’s stream will do everything from hydrate skin and tighten pores to nix acne.
Lowest-risk scenario: Nothing will happen, except for wasted bathroom time. The efforts of the pee facial are really a wash. Urine is approximately 98 percent water.
Certain skin products do contain urea to help with conditions like acne or psoriasis. However, the urea is synthetic and of a higher concentration than what’s found in human waste.
Most serious potential: Applying and leaving urine on the face, especially on inflamed skin, may invite infection.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been touted as the holy grail of DIY astringents. Users claim it helps clear acne, fade blemish scars or age spots, and even remove moles.
Lowest-risk scenario: Using ACV on your face will induce a stinging sensation and make you wince at the skunky smell. If ACV has saved your skin and you can’t use another option, dilute your ACV for safety.
Most serious potential: Long-term, undiluted ACV use could corrode your lovely face due to its highly acidic levels. Vinegar can be caustic if you leave it on your skin, and it shouldn’t be used to treat wounds.
Any acne sores are at risk for incurring a burn or major irritation. Plus, using ACV as a facial product puts your peepers at risk. If you get it in your eyes, you could experience inflammation or even a cornea burn.
While it’s tempting to find DIY solutions to our skin concerns, some ingredients just aren’t facial friendly.
When a natural ingredient is an actual glow booster, hydration helper, or irritation aid, it’s best used as a store-bought or prescribed product that has been thoroughly tested and safely diluted, packaged, and stored.
If you’re interested in the “pee facial” for example, just try the Eucerin line, which has long used synthetic urea to combat skin conditions. Or if you want the brightening and skin tone-evening benefits of citrus without the potential burn, opt for this lime wash from Ursa Major.
Leave the mixing and testing to product manufacturers. Taking ingredients from your fridge to your bathroom — or vice versa — creates risks of contamination, infection, or damage that could make the skin issue you’re trying to solve way worse.
Jennifer Chesakis a Nashville-based freelance book editor and writing instructor. She’s also an adventure, fitness, and health writer for several national publications. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill and is working on her first fiction novel, set in her native state of North Dakota.